Paris keeps on holding the title of the world capital of fragrance: galleries where you can discover the memory of medicine and lost embodiments, ace perfumers who still make smells as if they were music and houses of mythical perfumes. Here you have the best route to discover the history of perfume and evoke the effluvia capable of dusting a universe of memories.
Born in Egypt associated with the elaborate funeral rites of the pharaohs, the Greeks considered it a gift from Venus, and Arabs and Romans perfected the techniques of the azmicles and expanded the olfactory palette with multiple oriental essences. But it was France who under the reign of Louis XV would capitalize on the emerging perfume industry and it would be in Paris, where immortal fragrances like Chanel No. 5, Shalimar de Guerlain or Miss Dior would make women dream of the whole world.
I am not very perfumes, I admit it, so much gives me to put the sample of the turn of the magazine Vogue, that a few drops of a forgotten bottle in the back of the closet, gift of an old boyfriend, or directly out without more than the fresh smell of the recent shower. Surely neither the poet Paul Valéry author of the phrase “A woman without perfume is a woman without a future” or Coco Chanel for whom any elegant woman had to wear before leaving a few drops of perfume, they would be very happy with me. But it is precisely by writing this article, walking through the shops of the great perfumers, opening the bottles of essences of the Maison Fragonard and rediscovering the Eau de Cologne 4711, the indissoluble aroma of my childhood, when I understood the ultimate goal of a perfume. In the words of P. Serra, who could not have said it better, the perfumes are: “Guardians of past time (…), few things have such a human soul (…). Without speaking, without seeing, they come to express ideas, places, personalities, encouragement, (and above all) memories. ” So from today, I start looking for a fragrance that identifies me, that one day open for someone a bottle full of memories.
A bit of history: The Perfume Museum
A stone’s throw from the Opéra Garnier, in the mansion where Maria Callas once lived, we found this small museum. Opened in 1983 by the Fragonard family (one of the most reputable breeds of French perfumery), this interesting collection is a journey through the 3,000 years of perfumery, from the stills used in ancient Egypt to the labels and jars of the last century. In one of the rooms, visitors are encouraged to try their olfactory skillsthrough a myriad of essences. Attention to the traditional furniture of the perfumer containing hundreds of azmicles and a balance of millimeter precision. It is the so-called ‘organ’, in reference to the teacher’s abilities to create perfumes in the same way that a musician composes his symphony. Really beautiful.
Open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (free admission) 9, Rue de Scribe.
The Mythical Houses of the Perfumers
The visit begins with the Guerlain House at number 68 of the Champs Elysees, considered the oldest perfume house established in Paris (although the original was located on Rue Rivoli). In 1853 Empress Eugenie granted Pierre François Pascal Guerlain the title of ‘Perfumer of Her Majesty’ in recognition of the creation of the Eau de Cologne Impériale, a fragrance that Guerlain had specially conceived for her. Enter this lavish shop and do not stop smelling the famous imperial colony, as well as Jicky(created in 1889 and the favorite of Brigitte Bardot), Shalimar (1925) orVol de Nuit(1928), perfumes that marked the beginning of the 20th century.
You can also make an Atelier with experts of the brand in which you will discover the secrets of the most exclusive perfumery as well as learn to create your own fragrance.
We reached the Place Vendome, true epicenter of luxury and sophistication Parisian to find two stores the absolute reference in the history of perfume, Annick Goutal and Frederic Malle (both in rue Castiglione ), contemporary brands of perfumery whose philosophy is that the Price must be inside the bottle and not in advertising. And in the same Plaza, impossible to miss the boutique of Amin Kader, an exclusive distributor of perfumes Santa Maria Novella in Paris.
And of course, we could not forget in our tour the flagship boutique of the house Chanel since 1910, at number 19 Rue Cambon, to evoke the history of the most famous perfume of all time, Chanel N ° 5, created by Ernest Beaux. In the year 1924, Coco Chanel would select the sample n ° 5 of the fragrances that Beaux had taught her. The 5 would become the fetish number of the designer who always presented their collections on the 5th of the 5th month. As part of the legend around the immortal fragrance tell that when the official presentation of Audrey Tatou was made like his new muse, she happened to be in the hotel where she was staying in New York, room 55. Take the opportunity to discover the Les Exclusifs series, sold, as the name suggests, exclusively in this store or the last perfume created by the great lady, Chanel N ° 19 baptized with her birth date, on August 19.
Coco Chanel’s apartment at number 19 Rue Cambon© Chanel
In search of the lost aroma, Osmothèque
We left Paris towards Versailles to visit a unique museum in the world, the Osmothèque, an institution responsible for gathering and preserving the creations of the world perfumery. In 1988 several perfumers decided to create this conservatory of aromas with the aim of reconstructing the formula of perfumes lost in the memory of a time or already discontinued and preserve those others ‘still alive’ in the market.
A total of 1,800 formulas of which 400 no longer exist make this paradise of memories and aromas where you can smell the perfume used by Marie Antoinette (recreated in 2007 by scientists and historians) and with a bit of luck until the fragrance used by your Grandma and you never met again. The Osmothèque organizes visits almost every Wednesday and other days upon request.
Create your bespoke perfume
Surely with so many fascinating stories about the perfume you have been wanting to buy one or why not, what is already one of the most fashionable trends among celebrities, create your own fragrance. In Paris the options are many, here are two suggestions:
L’Artisan Parfumeur (2, rue de Amiral-de-Coligny).
With the help of the “Nez” Stéphanie Bakouche Koudiri, you can design your own perfume in 3 and a half hours. After a theoretical explanation and the presentation of a palette with the different olfactory families, we embark on creation. The final touch of the expert and the realization of a personalized label. All for 370 euros (group 185 euros).
Stéphanie De Bruijn (52 rue de l’ Université)
Possibility of developing a high perfumery fragrance focused on the personality of those who create it. For this, you will need up to four meetings and three to six months to get that personal aroma that best defines you.
Curiosidades del Perfume
– The first perfume made for commercial purposes dates back to the 14th century, known as Agua de Reina, the name given to it by its creator, the Italian Juan María Farina, who in 1709 established himself in the then city of the Prussian empire Colonia.
– The oldest fragrance in the world is Colonia 4711, created in 1796. Among the celebrities who used it are Napoleon I and his beloved Josephine de Beauharnais.
– Paul Poiret, the creator of haute couture, was the first to associate a fragrance to a fashion house, Parfums de Rosine.
– The first masculine fragrances arise from 1950.
– Every six seconds a bottle of Chanel No. 5 is sold somewhere in the world.
For those interested in knowing more about the history of perfumes, I recommend Elisabeth de Feydeau’s ‘The Perfumer of Marie Antoinette’ , which tells the story of perfumery and other associated trades – such as the glove shop or the headgear – and the trajectory of a man of progressive profession, witness and actor of a fascinating era.